With sixty teams and nearly 1300 runners from across the state and Minnesota at Wausau’s American Legion Golf Course for the 59th Annual Smiley Invite on Saturday, it was easy to get lost in the shuffle.
A little bit of that happened to the Bluejay and Hatchet cross country teams.
The Tomahawk boys ranked 10th and the girls were 15th in the 25-team combined D2-3 event.
The Merrill teams finished 12th and 11th, respectively, of a dozen teams in the D1 Small Schools division.
“For the second year in a row, our varsity boys came in to Smiley with high expectations and realistic goals, and walked away far short of them,” THS coach John Zuelsdorf said. “Although Alex Johnson, Cayton Scholz, Mason Webster, and Justin Jarvensivu ran at PR levels, our performance as a team was lack-luster at best and it showed in the overall results. We were undefeated going into the event and not only did they finish a mediocre 10th place, but they were defeated by a couple of teams that we had beaten in earlier invites this year. Granted we were hit hard with some upper respiratory illness this week, but I didn’t think it would affect us that drastically. We need to regroup and reevaluate where we are at.
“I thought that each of our girls made some positive progress at Smiley. Over half of the girls had either PR’s or seasonal-best efforts and others were very close. Dani (Whiting) and Kate (Krueger, in JV) medaled and ran nice competitive races. If we continue to make strides, we will be a different team at the end of the season than where we are now. The overall competition in girls was one of the strongest I’ve seen in recent years from top to bottom. Lizebeth (Edwardsen) , Riley (Swan) and Lauren (Bauman) all had career best 5K’s and were competitive throughout the race.”
Dani Whiting paced the county runners at 17th place in 21:20, and was backed by Edwardsen (56th, 22:43), Maggee Renn (69th, 22:54), Swan (102nd, 23:51), Bauman (110th, 23:57) and Susan Waye (136th, 24:52).
The THS boys were buoyed by Johnson (29th, 17:53), Scholz (40th, 18:13), Webster (54th 18:28), VanStrydonk (56th, 18:33), Lucas Tjugum (78th, 19:00), Jarvensivu (95th, 19:14), Jakob Panzer (118th, 19:45) and Kyle Klopatek (134th, 20:11).
Merrill’s boys were boosted by Andrei Heisinger (53rd, 19:22), Jacob Romang (76th, 20:07), Nathan Koch (78th, 20:16), Ethan Bares (809th, 20:41) and Mark Thompson (82nd, 21:05).
The girls relied on Lily Reimann (43rd, 23:09), Dalie Thomas (48th, 23:30), Autumn Schenzel (49th, 23:32), Hunter Zecca (53rd, 23:50), Sophie Priebe (66th, 24:51) and Kennedy Soderberg (67th, 25:06) and Rachael Romanowski (71st, 25:56).
“The Smiley Invite was a big wake up call for both varsity and JV runners,” commented MHS coach Craig Hoffman.
“After scouring the results, we found that in order for us to beat the best, we first have to compete with the best and we didn’t compete as well as I had hoped. We had a lot of personal records and lowering of times, but we still need to run better in the middle of our race. I believe my athletes are in very good shape, so I’m believing it’s the adage, ‘No guts, no glory’ sort of thing. We need to get out there, stay out there, and beat others through the chute. It’s as simple as that.
“A few sparks from our girl runners show great promise when we enter our invite in two weeks. Any of Lily, Deauntae Sanders, Autumn, Dalie and Kennedy could lead us into some better placings and lowering of times. If we can keep this pack close together and lower their times at the same time, we may be a contender when it comes to the conference meet. I’m pretty excited at the prospect of what could be accomplished if their hearts, minds and their will to win fall into line.
“On the boys side, we had illnesses and injury keep some of our runners from competing at Smiley, and this really hurt our morale and team placing. We’re in the cellar right now in our conference and in the region of area runners. We’re way off our target in team placings and individual times. We can salvage both of these items, with continued hard work and having our best efforts come the whole team. Don’t get me wrong here, I’m not saying we’re not trying, we just have to be totally honest that our best efforts at running and competing haven’t shown through quite yet.”